Each time the American Institutes For Research wades into evaluation comprehensive school reform models it sparks a lively debate — their most recent foray should prove no exception. Nonetheless, it’s an important debate to have.
“Our purpose in providing ratings is not to pick winners and losers but rather to clarify options for decision-makers,” said Steve Fleischman, a managing director for AIR who oversaw the study.
Ha ha ha!!!
Seriously, though it’s always perceived as picking winners and losers — and lets not kid ourselves, it is — the report is a useful analysis for policymakers and practitioners as it evaluates CSR models along five key indicators: Evidence of positive effects on student achievement; Evidence of positive effects on additional outcomes; Evidence of positive effects on family and community involvement; Evidence of a link between research and model design; and Evidence that model provider’s services and support to schools enables successful implementation.
Read a brief summary here, executive summary here (pdf), full report here (pdf), searchable database here.
The ratings themselves aside, one big takeaway is the lack of evidence about some programs. Some of the models that AIR rated as “zeros” (how’s that for not picking winners and losers?) get the rating because there is little evidence about their effectiveness. That points to larger problems in education, namely the lack of rigorous evaluation and evidence and the lack of demand for it in the first place.